Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Food for thought...

There are road hazards and then there are road hazards. Motorcyclists are always dodging potholes, manhole covers, roadkill, rocks, mattresses, plywood, shoes, truck tire remnants, miscellaneous car parts and unidentifiable liquids which may or may not be water and oil. This time of year we have to be cautious of seasonal or less familiar road hazards not so common during the summer. Wet leaves, fallen trees branches, sand, gravel and two hazards that lurk in the shadows waiting to getcha, moss (it does grow on roads around here) and the inevitable black ice.

It is getting near that time of year when every chilly morning, I stroll out to the street in front of my house, with hot coffee in hand, to test the pavement for frost, assess the skies above and gauge the density of the fog before suiting up, rolling the bike out of the garage and heading off to work. I am confident in my decisions but I have on occasion been forced to change my route to work due to an error in judgement. My usual route to work consists of using the less travelled back roads and avoiding the dreaded Highway 34. But the higher traffic and congestion drying the road and the lack of tree shadowing curves actually makes it a somewhat safer alternative than my more pleasant summer route.

But road hazards and debris can also come in many flavors and one example is pumpkin. Yes, a seasonal road hazard we tend to forget is the great pumpkin.

Across the country these fruit are swiped from front porches only to be found the next morning in a horrific jack o' lantern massacre of pumpkin strewn across the pavement, they litter highway and byways this time of year and it is slipperier than snot. My last encounter with this destined pie filling was last year when I rode my bike through what I thought was wet sawdust.

The Willamette Valley is known for farming and a local food processing company transport their goods along rural routes. Unfortunately, every stop, turn and bump in the road causes the trucks to spill their contents, creating just one more obstacle in our path best to avoid. Imagine an open top semi trailer filled to the brim with processed pumpkin sloshing about, this promotes a lot of spillage on the road. Last night during my ride home past the main entrance to the food processing plant, I was reminded of the deceptive pumpkin, along side of the road was a prelude to what was to come as harvest loomed closer.

Beware the Great Pumpkin and have a happy and safe Halloween!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Calendar pics

Here are some pics I submitted for a 2009 calendar that a forum member was putting together. These are just quick shots of stops by the side of the road, I am not a professional photographer nor did I use a professional camera.

I could use a little more practice with shadows, lighting, et cetera, but not too bad for being self taught.

And for my 15 minutes of fame, the last two did make the calendar, for the months of January and June.

à tout à l'heure!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dense Fog Advisory

The local weather forecasters warned us of a dense fog advisory this morning. Sure enough, when it started to get light out just before 7:00 the fog was evident. I chose to wear the high-vis jacket today and take the direct route into work.

This route consists of about 3 miles of in town riding and 8 miles of highway, Highway 34, a four lane highway crammed with cell phone toting, SUV aiming, double latte drinking....well, you get the idea.

However, it was this same driver mentality that got me thinking about the dense fog advisory.

These drivers are in a dense fog, be advised.

I made the effort this morning to wear a high-vis jacket, I turned my headlight onto high beam to ensure I could be seen. What I don't understand is how people can make no effort whatsoever to perform the simplest task of just turning their headlights on. How hard can it be? Is it that long 2-1/2 foot uphill hike to the headlight switch on the dash or that even shorter two foot stretch to the switch left of the steering wheel? Even more lazy is those who do make that exhausting trek only muster just enough strength to turn the switch one notch, illuminating just the parking lights. Wow.

The only reasonable assumption I can come up for this phenomena is that headlight switches are located on the left of the steering wheel and 95% of the general population is right handed. This switch location is opposite the gear shift, opposite the climate control, opposite the radio and opposite the wiper control. However, all of these switches, dials and controls necessary to operate the vehicle are located on the right side of the driver and requires using the left side of the brain. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa. So what is the right side of the brain doing that the left side of the body can't operate a simple headlight switch (and signal light switch)? The right side of the brain must be preoccupied or busy performing some other task. The right temporal lobe deals with hearing. However, its job is to process musical information or help in the identification of noises.

Noises, like a cell phone conversation perhaps?

The day did clear up, but I think the dense fog advisory may be in effect for some time yet.

à tout à l'heure!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's not too late...

My two favorite past time interests are seasonal and both of them, motorcycling and gardening, are of the same season. I spent the afternoon today tending to plants in the yard, transplanting some plants to make room for others waiting to be put into the ground for the winter. While down on my hands and knees, playing in the dirt and appreciating the warm sun on my back, I realized how much one hobby can be neglected for another.

I spent all summer putting miles on my bike and completely missed my Hibiscus bloom, although I did manage to catch a glimpse of the Clematis flowering. Foolishly I had abandoned my early morning walkabouts through the yard with coffee in hand. I would take mental notes of which plants were doing what and plan my evening tending accordingly. I would watch and wait with anticipation to see which plant was about to burst open with color and fragrance. I sat briefly on the garden swing this summer breathing the aroma of the Clethra, but not nearly long enough.

Not all is lost, the Clerodendrum is still blooming, the roses are hanging in there and the Guara are as colorful as ever. This is a beautiful season to spend in the garden, the grasses are at their very best, many of the Viburnums are about to take the stage with their orange, red and purple leaves and the winged euonymus divulge their more common name of burning bush.

Trees are about to change, Maples are turning red and orange, the Gingko casts golden yellow fans and the Raywood Ash is a favorite of mine for their intense purple foliage this season. I am eagerly awaiting photo opportunities and to be able to show this seasons stunning colors in future posts.

Autumn is an end to the riding season for many in the motorcycling community, hibernation sets in, but for those who hang in there a little while longer will experience the most beautiful scenery nature has to offer. There is nothing more fun than riding your bike down a country road and watching the dry fallen leaves swirl behind you while you catch yourself grinning in the reflection of your own mirrors.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Here comes the rain again...

It was a long dry summer and Friday was our first decent autumn rain. It now looks and feels as if fall is here.

I rinsed the dust off my rain gear during my ride home and I'm transitioning from warm weather gear to cold weather gear. It had been getting chilly in the mornings on my ride to work, around 38º and then warming up to mid 70ºs for the ride home. I am thankful for liners and layering, but I was packing my saddlebags full for my evening commute. The fall rains bring more consistent temperatures and I am able to wear the same gear for each commute.

The other two motorcyclists at my work stopped commuting on their bikes a month ago, leaving me to battle Mother Nature alone.

I am getting the same comments from them I receive every year, 'you're crazy, why put yourself in danger, the roads are slippery and it can't be fun to ride in the rain'. I can't hold it against them, some riders are just of the fair weather breed. I welcome the challenge and the opportunity to hone my skills required to ride a motorcycle in the cold and rain.

One challenge I encountered Friday night was a stalled motorcycle on the side of the road. My bike lost power and left me temporarily stranded on my way home. Now this is not something you really want to experience with a new bike at the beginning of the rainy season. Fortunately it wasn't dark yet, but I was dead in the water so to speak. I never used my truck so I sold it last year and our car doesn't have a hitch, nor do we own a trailer if it did. I am looking into roadside assistance for motorcycles, but this is not an easy task, some companies won't cover bikes and some towing companies won't touch bikes. I was lucky this time, I remember reading about this situation regarding our bikes on a forum, but couldn't recall the precise remedy. I waited a couple of minutes, fiddled with the petcock and she fired right up and took me home without further incident. Later I logged onto the forum and read that the fuel tank vent line runs under the bike in front of the rear tire and water will block this vent hose. The immediate solution is to open the gas cap relieving the pressure, the short term solution is to cut the end of the hose at a 45º angle which prevents water from forming at the end of the hose and blocking ventilation. The permanent solution is to install a vented gas cap.

Isn't it funny how a little gremlin can ruin your ride and further distance you from the car driving public. We can't just leave our vehicle on the side of the road, lock the doors and hike into town. We have got to be resourceful, mechanically inclined and maybe just a little bit humble, but I still wouldn't trade it for a cage.

Now to find AAA's phone number.